Submitted by Piotr Machacz on Sunday, November 3, 2013.
I realise posting this in a very much Apple oriented site could be quite controversial. But, I figured I might as well, to see what people think. Before we get to the main topic though, some backstory.
When the iPhone 3GS came out in 2009, I, like pretty much everyone else was very impressed. The reality was however that I didn’t really have money to get one ($30/month contracts aren’t exactly cheep considering I was paying about $10-15 at the time.). Time passed, and eventually I got an iPod touch. Not surprisingly I fell in love with it. A few months later I again tried to go for an iPhone, and again couldn’t because of its price and had to settle for another Nokia. A month after I got it, said company announced the move to Windows phone… and the rest is history. Either way, I was meanwhile watching the advancements of Android accessibility, having listened to Mike Arigo’s very in-depth podcast. I didn’t really give Android much thought though, until the release of Ice cream sandwich and news that the xperia pro, which had a keyboard and stats comparable to an iPhone 4,would be receiving it. So, in Late june of 2012, I got one. A few days later, I managed to lose my iPod touch I did get a new one, but it’s very much a secondary device. And now, we finally get to the main point of this already pretty long post. So how does my workflow look like? The iPod is very much multimedia device. I use it for mostly games and all the music creation apps, and reading books. Everything else gets offloaded to my current phone, a Galaxy S4. Why don’t I see an iPhone in my near or even distant future? A few reasons.
First, hardware. All of the iPhones are seriously overpriced. 600 dollars for a device that has a dual core CPU and a gig of ram? No thanks. The aforementioned S4 cost me $60 less, and it has a quad core CPU at 1.9GHZ and 2GB ram, plus a user serviceable battery and expandable storage. If $600 is too much, you can still get devices that run circles around even the iPhone 5S for less money, look at the Nexus 5 which is $350. 2.3GHZ quad core, 2 gigs of ram, and a bigger screen. But the 5S is 64-bit. So? It’s not magically going to improve performance. What you mainly get out of 64-bit CPU’s is that you can address more ram, specifically, above 4GB. The 5S only has 1.
iOS is very optimised to run on the hardware though, and I’ll give it that, look at how you have very low latency in audio apps. That’s one thing the iPhone is good at. But every other kind of task is a chore, because of some of the IMO stupid sandboxing rules apple has. Inter-app communication is kept to the bare minimum. Apple says apps are one of, if not the most important, strengths of iOS. And that’s true, look at this site, which is a very useful resource and community. Back to apps though, there are a lot of them, and you will need a lot of them to get one task done. For example you might get a document over email you want to edit, and then share to someone through, say, what’s app. You first need to export the file out of Email, into an app that can edit it. That app hopefully will have an open with option or built in dropbox support so you can upload it. Then, you need to go to dropbox, copy the link to the clipboard, go to what’s app, paste the link, and send it. But what if it can’t be dropbox? What if you need to use google drive or sky drive? What if you need to upload it to a webpage? You can’t, because that would require apple to give you file system access so you can find the file. And that is a ridiculously high security risk. On Android, every app is sandboxed as well, but Google has sharing API’s which, unlike on iOS where the sharing API is limited to services apple gives you like Facebook, Twitter or iMessage, lets any app register with it. So it doesn’t matter if you need to share the file to dropbox or a new service that will come out in a few years, you can, and developers don’t need to do anything to support it, apart from adding a “share” option. Also, one of the new features of Android 4.4 is you now have a common open file dialog for all apps, which developers can integrate their services with. So at that point, any text editor or what have you will be able to open a file out of your Dropbox, edit it, and then Dropbox will automatically upload it after you’re done editing.
Another problem I have is some of apple’s policies regarding their stores. Specifically, the no refund and no trials policy. That’s OK for movies and music, but apps? You don’t know if an app is accessible before trying it. Most apps in the app store aren’t free, so you end up wasting money on inaccessible apps. Yes, Apple does give refunds if you contact their sales team, but seriously? That’s overkill and takes more time than it’s worth. Google play gives you a 15-minute refund period, so you can try even the most expensive apps without fear of wasting money, and I’ve done so on many occasions.
And lastly, accessibility. Yes, I’m really talking about the godly Voiceover and yes, it’s not godly. Nothing is perfect, Talkback on Android does have issues (confusing menus, terrible web view support, or poorly documented API’s for developers looking to make their apps accessible) are good examples where Voiceover does much better. The problem though is that it’s starting to have more and more issues. And just like JAWS on Windows, with each new iOS release, it’s degrading, and Apple is not doing enough to fix it. I’m not sure if it’s not enough people reporting it or Apple ignoring problems, maybe a little of both. A few examples of issues would be kind of broken access to Siri, international voices which have very obvious pronunciation issues that somehow no one at Apple noticed, and features that have been missing for years that can be fixed with a jailbreak like having a pronunciation dictionary or getting full speed out of the synthesiser. Because of how closed off iOS is, we don’t have good contact with people who develop Voiceover, while on Android Talkback can be updated separately, you can talk to the people in charge, and even have a bug tracker specific to accessibility.
In conclusion, is iOS good? Yes. Even though I said all these things, it did revolutionise touchscreen access and gave a shove to the competition. Can you be very productive? In my opinion, no. The situation does improve slightly after a jailbreak, but things are just separated too much to get anything more complex done quickly and without 20000 steps.